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Unliberal Speech

Posted by Michael Dolan on May 30, 2015 in Uncategorized |


Strangling free speech and — its sibling open mindedness — is usually associated with conservatives.  Might be time to reconsider.


Commencement speeches remind columnist George Will of several free speech controversies.  “Free speech is more comprehensively and aggressively embattled now than ever before in American history, largely because of two 19th-century ideas,” he says.


Agree or disagree with him, his column in the Washington Post is a useful compendium of recent efforts to stifle free speech — usually at our institutions of “inquiry” and learning.


See it here:



Stop Thinking That

Posted by Michael Dolan on April 15, 2015 in Uncategorized |

Authors and publishers continue to point with pride when they make the American Library Association’s list of most complained about books.  It was 311 books in 2014.


The association said the complaints were about books straying from mainstream thought: “sex, drug use, homosexual themes, politics and offensive language.”


Author of the most complained about book, Sherman Alexie, said he was proud to be on the list for the fourth straight year.  “The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian” concerns Native American cultural issues.


The fact that three graphic novels made the list shows comic books are becoming a vital part of modern culture, according to the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund.


See CNN’s report:



Gentrification Never Existed

Posted by Michael Dolan on January 17, 2015 in Uncategorized |

          It’s big undefined blob of a word that obscures rather than illuminates.  Gentrification is a metaphor and a poorly applied one.  Plenty of studiers show it does not exist as people use the term, according to author John Buntin.


          “As for displacement—the most objectionable feature of gentrification—there’s actually very little evidence it happens. In fact, so-called gentrifying neighborhoods appear to experience less displacement than nongentrifying neighborhoods,” he writes.


          His article is well sourced.  Check it out:



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Don’t Look at that Trade Policy Behind the Curtain

Posted by Michael Dolan on November 22, 2014 in Uncategorized |

Can’t win a political argument?  Then put everyone to sleep in order to get your way.  Details of the new US-EU trade agreement will be public — in 30 years.  This relevant point is buried behind inscrutable acronyms, boring jargon, and trendy words such as “transparency” or “stake-holder.”

“One might be forgiven for concluding from this, and in general from the obfuscatory and often downright misleading bureaucratese in which TTIP’s aims are framed, that they are trying to hide something,” according to Steven Poole writing in the US edition of The Guardian.  “However, the official TTIP literature itself relentlessly invokes the modish political virtue of “transparency”.

See the full clever and informative article here:

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Nothing Means Everything

Posted by Michael Dolan on November 22, 2014 in Uncategorized |

Let’s have some fun.  What your girl friend really means:



Of Course

Posted by Michael Dolan on November 12, 2014 in Uncategorized |



Is it Legal?

Posted by Michael Dolan on October 27, 2014 in Uncategorized |

Is it Ok to put the word “illegal” in the name of your restaurant such as Illegal Pete’s opening next month in Fort Collins, CO?  If you know Illegal Pete’s is a Mexican restaurant, is it still OK?

Many community members are answering “No.”  The discussion joins a controversy that has been running for several years, according to Lawrence Downes, who wrote a 2007 commentary in the New York Times, which explains it well.


“”Since the word modifies not the crime but the whole person, it goes too far,” Downes wrote.”  It spreads, like a stain that cannot wash out. It leaves its target diminished as a human, a lifetime member of a presumptive criminal class.”


There’s an insightful discussion at The Coloradoan:


What You Didn’t See

Posted by Michael Dolan on October 6, 2014 in Uncategorized |


Robert Darnton offers a useful reminder that not all societies are as dedicated to free speech as the US. In fact, some intellectuals have seen censorship as a valuable way to form and maintain civil society.


Darton’s new book Censors at Work: How States Shaped Literature (published by W. W. Norton) examines censorship in three societies. Revolutionary France, imperial India, and East Germany.


His detailed examples give use second thought on the value of censorship. Some censors have acted more like editors, enhancing the author’s work. Some not.


His blog is worth a read:

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Humanitarian bombing

Posted by Michael Dolan on September 21, 2014 in Uncategorized |

Most people trace the origin of “humanitarian bombing” to the war in Kosovo in 1999.  It was well articulated by Václav Havel: “I believe that during intervention of NATO in Kosovo there is an element nobody can question: the air attacks, the bombs, are not caused by a material interest. Their character is exclusively humanitarian: What is at stake here are the principles, human rights which are accorded priority that surpasses even state sovereignty. This makes attacking the Yugoslav Federation legitimate, even without the United Nations mandate.”

Get that?  No questioning. Once we label indiscriminate explosions over a large area of enemy territory “humanitarian,” it’s time for peaceniks to move on.

Humanitarian bombing is how President Obama ushered us back into Iraq.  It was the cover for saving an ethnic group no one ever heard of before.

To widen the war, Obama now builds on the foundation of humanitarian maiming by using the pretense that will we “degrade and destroy” the enemy.  (It does not matter who the enemy is.  What matters is our conduct.)

Once again, he tells us this will be so controlled and surgical.  Nothing will go wrong.  We won’t be bombing wedding parties in Yemen and Afghanistan.

Such clean descriptions of humanities’ most brutal act have a long history.  In the 1950s, we invented “Victory through Air Power,” an antiseptic way to control our enemy without getting dirty.  Vietnam, where we dropped a greater tonnage bombs than we did in WWII, destroyed that lie.  But by the first Iraq war, enough time had passed so we forgot.  The concept was called “precision bombing” with “smart bombs.”  Again, as recent events show, a complete failure.

Barack Obama, Nobel Peace Prize recipient, has once more shown us his most effective political skill: a great speech.


Further views

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The More Powerful Email Message

Posted by Michael Dolan on September 9, 2014 in Uncategorized |

Use this simple trick to examine your emails to see what your status is: count the number of “I” word you use and your correspondent uses.  Whoever uses the word more has a lower status, according to James Pennebaker, a psychologist at the University of Texas at Austin.

We tend to be more self conscious when talking to a person of higher status so we emphasize the “I” more.

See more and find the software to help you count words here:

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